Germany's 'Sun King' wants to rebuild his empire from the US

Photo: Thomson Reuters

Photo: Thomson Reuters

FRANKFURT/LOS ANGELES, Feb 18 (Reuters) - German solar energy pioneer Frank Asbeck is betting that the United States can rehabilitate him and his company SolarWorld, which he rescued from the jaws of insolvency two years ago, making himself an industry outcast in the process.

Asbeck, 55, pursued measures both imaginative and ruthless to ensure that his solar panel company did not fall victim to a crisis that claimed many of its German peers.

For years, demand for solar panels and cells thrived in Germany thanks to lavish incentives, until sharp cuts in subsidies and fierce Asian competition put an end to that.

Now, having single-handedly unleashed a trade war, Asbeck is looking across the Atlantic to rebuild a company whose market value peaked at 5.2 billion euros ($5.9 billion) in 2007, and now stands at 169 million.

"This year, we plan to sell more than 60 percent of our panels in the United States," Asbeck told Reuters, compared with 41 percent in 2014.

He said SolarWorld commanded a 10 percent share in what is now the world's third-biggest solar market after China and Japan, a fact that could help it this year to post its first operating profit since 2011.

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